As Head of Sustainability in the Estates Directorate at Queen's University Belfast, Sara Lynch leads the University's expanded Sustainability Team, overseeing the development of the University's sustainability strategy. As a member of the Estates Senior Management team, Sara is responsible for improving the University's sustainability performance across all activities, driving cultural and behavioural change throughout the campus and community.
What does your role as Head of Sustainability involve?
I am responsible for overseeing the long-term planning and implementation of a wide range of programmes, projects and initiatives to embed sustainability across the University and improve the sustainability performance across all activities. I lead the newly formed University Sustainability team, responsible for developing and delivering the University's pathway to Net Zero and who will play a key role in delivering Strategy 2030 commitments to embracing the Sustainable Development Goals across our University community.
What projects are you currently working on?
My team and I are working on a wide range of projects across the University. One of the most exciting is the development of the next stage of our Climate Strategy, a critical part of the University's response to the climate crisis. Our Strategy will set out our pathway to Net Zero over the coming years. It will address how we heat and power our campus, how we travel, what we buy, and how we adapt to climate change, and will require engagement with a wide range of stakeholders within and outside of the University. Our new Sustainability Team will play a key role in delivering this strategy across campus.
Alongside this, we have a rolling programme of ongoing energy efficiency projects, sustainable travel initiatives, waste and recycling programmes, biodiversity and engagement initiatives. Highlights include our Lab Sustainability programme, LEAF, delivered in partnership with our University Technicians; our Carbon Literacy training for staff and students; our Lennoxvale Tree Nursery, which is a partnership with the Sans Souci Residents; and our on-campus Bike Hub.
We are also establishing a new Sustainability Board at Queen's, which will bring together a wide range of people from across the University – including teaching, operations, and research and outreach – to shape how we embed the Sustainable Development Goals across campus.
What is the best bit about your role?
Getting to work with the diverse range of staff and students across the University community, as well as with other universities and organizations who want to make a difference. There is a lot of energy and attention around sustainability and a real willingness to collaborate and build meaningful solutions to addressing the climate emergency.
What are the challenges?
Putting in place the measures we need to make a real impact on the carbon footprint of the University and address our carbon emissions is a major challenge.
There is no single solution that will enable us to do that. It will take a major shift in how we do things as a whole university community, and as a city and region. It will also require significant financial investment and a willingness from everyone to change how we currently work and live.
What makes you most proud about your contribution to our University community?
I am very proud to have been given the opportunity to play a key role in increasing the importance and visibility of sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals across Queen's, and to be given the time, support, investment and commitment to expand and lead a Sustainability team that can drive positive change across the University and deliver a university-wide response to the climate emergency.
It has also been very rewarding to see the positive difference and change that our projects, like the Big Loop Bike Hub and Lennoxvale Tree Nursery, have made in the University and local community, and the contribution they have made to Queen's Sustainability journey.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spend time with my family. My daughter is five my son eight, so weekends are busy and we try to get as much time outdoors as possible – either in the garden or in local parks. I recently rejoined my local community choir and I really enjoy singing – it's a great stress-buster.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I'm a qualified Speech and Drama teacher and I play the harp (though my skills are a bit rusty these days!). I played the harp in Mackies Factory during the Bill Clinton visit to Belfast in 1995, though I'm not really sure I fully appreciated the importance of that visit back then!
What are you currently reading?
The Nurse by Clare Allan (local author and fellow Derry girl!). I love getting lost in a good book; it definitely helps me wind down after a busy day.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can't you live without?
My Samsung Galaxy Buds – for podcasts, music and audiobooks. I got a pair for Christmas and haven't stopped using them.